Week 2: We Have to Have Tough Conversations to Get Anything Done

Over the past week I continued working on my topic mostly by talking to my parents and looking out for any new connections to our topic. An article my uncle posted on Facebook stuck out specifically by chance. It was about a program in his town’s high school that hosts dinners a few times a year for ELL and new American students to come together with other students from their high school and talk. This ranges from favorite TV shows to what life is like as an immigrant, and hits both on light topics and tough questions. What’s important is that it creates an opportunity for people to simply talk. As my group knows, communication is key. And this year, apparently the dinner was almost called off in light of the election and feelings that have been circulated. I am so glad that it wasn’t; I think that things like this shouldn’t be avoided just because they’re difficult to talk about, but rather, they are more important than ever. We HAVE to have tough conversations if we are going to get anything done, so that’s something I’m really appreciating about this project.

A quick tangent: at my school after the election, teachers have been discouraged from talking about the election in class, and an annual trivia competition that focuses around current events was called off. While yes, this is a contested subject and it would have been different than previous years, that’s why it would have been so important! We can’t be scared to talk about these things; and if the adults are, it’s up to us kids.

Anyways. The article said that the dinner was a big success, so I was thinking maybe we could try to implement something like that. And it turns out that my uncle also volunteered in an ELL class this past week, so I’m going to send him an email to see what he has to say about it. While he may be in Minnesota instead of Vermont, it’s still relevant in getting a better sense of the topic, and it would be interesting to talk to him about.

I also had a conversation with my parents, which was useful in multiple aspects. We talked about programs that already exist, such as the International Student Organization at Middlebury College, which provides a place where international students can come together to bond, show other students about their cultures, and lobby the administration if they want changes. While the college is obviously a different atmosphere than primary and secondary schools, the idea of forming a body of non-American or new American students is still relevant. It brought up the importance of both forming a community, as well as not becoming too entrenched in that community, because it shouldn’t stop new Americans from getting to know native Vermonters. So my mom brought up the idea of a tutor/mentor program, where new American or ELL students could be paired with native Vermonters. When I lived in Germany, a teacher of mine connected me with an older German student who helped tutor me and also became one of my closest friends. Setting up a program for something like this could both help a student’s education through tutoring, and simply give them an opportunity to make a friend, which can be so valuable for both students involved.

My parents also brought up some more contacts for me and offered to get me in touch with them, which will be very valuable for the project, and especially for this coming week, when I hope to start making contacts. More on that next time!

Featured Image by Valery Kenski

Greta Hardy-Mittell

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